At Camp Rhino there is no walking and no whining; there is only one rule.
“When I yell, ‘Boot camp,’ you yell, ‘Tough,’ ” said instructor Cory Drumright.
“Tough,” the group yelled in unison.
With each cheer, people are more and more determined to scale walls, flip tires, climb ropes, race through monkey bars, sprint faster, jump higher, squat lower, push harder and, on occasion, vomit everything from their system just to do it all again.
“You don’t come here to be mediocre,” Drumright said while sitting in a giant tire being pulled by a dozen participants. “You come here to be set apart. This is your happy hour.”
Julie Johnston, who also created outdoor workout program Boot Camp Las Vegas, opened the indoor obstacle course Camp Rhino, 6635 S. Eastern Ave., in January.
“It’s addicting, really,” she said. “I visualize it like a video game. You want to get to the next level, and you can’t stop.”
The course offers hourlong workouts that can get people in shape, help them lose weight or prepare them for extreme races such as Tough Mudder, Spartan Race or the television show “American Ninja Warrior,” which is scheduled to tape in Las Vegas June 21-24.
Opening Camp Rhino has been a series of obstacles for Johnston starting when she was 19.
After an athletic injury in high school that resulted in weight gain, Johnston wanted to get back in shape.
She instructed former military men to train her, thinking they’d get her in the best shape.
“I told them to take me to the park and massacre me,” she said. “I was really disappointed, though.”
Johnston felt like the trainers were underestimating her abilities.
“We took a lot of breaks,” she said.
Instead of giving up, Johnston decided to train herself.
She returned to the park with a group of people and pushed everyone to their limits with bear crawls and log carrying.
“I threw up afterward,” she said. “That’s exactly what I wanted.”
A year later, Johnston had lost the weight she had desired and was in the shape she had always wanted.
She also had some faithful followers.
With a few supporters, Johnston decided to go big or go home with Boot Camp Las Vegas.
She sent out a media challenge trying to get publicity. After her program was publicized, she remembered getting 83 calls in one hour.
Boot Camp Las Vegas was up and running.
“It’s been nine years, and we’ve had 13,000 people come through,” she said.
Johnston said her next hurdle was getting parks in Clark County and the different cities to sign off on allowing her to continue in the parks. She was shut down several times.
With some city officials believing in her vision – using parks to help people stay active – Johnston said she was able to break down barriers and continue boot camp.
Sessions are offered in Henderson and Las Vegas.
While she kept training people in the park, she fantasized about having a giant obstacle course.
“I had one built in my backyard,” she said. “It was hard to keep breaking it down and hauling it to places.”
In October, she looked into opening an actual course.
Camp Rhino was born.
“A rhino is an indestructible force,” she said, describing the meaning behind the name. “They come together for food and fun, but they can take care of business by themselves.”
That definition, in Johnston’s opinion, defines Camp Rhino’s members.
Drumright started at Camp Rhino in January before becoming an instructor two months ago.
A retired Marine, Drumright remembers falling into “couch potato” mode when he stopped working out for years.
“I decided I wanted to get back into shape,” he said. “I remember going for a three-mile run and nearly blacking out. I was disappointed in myself.”
It was the final straw. Drumright said he never wanted to get that out of shape again.
He began training for Tough Mudder and other extreme races.
In January, he discovered Camp Rhino.
“It was like an adult playground,” he said. “I’ve been loyal ever since. The thing I love about this place is the camaraderie. Julie has really fostered that type of spirit here.”
Certain obstacles proved to be more challenging than others for Drumright, such as the A-frame pull-up bars – where participants do pull-ups on an angle.
But with determination, he was able to overcome the challenge.
“Once I came down, I was so excited,” he said.
He loved seeing the diversity and how people were giving it their all, prompting him to become an instructor.
“Everyone pushes hard,” he said. “Johnston has created something special. I wanted to be a part of that.”
Johnston said the workouts help people do more than just lose weight and get in shape. People get to do both those things while learning practical skills, such as climbing a 10-foot wall.
Whether a person is just starting out or already has a couple of Tough Mudder races under his belt, Camp Rhino works with people of all levels.
Drumright added that people will get a variety each time.
“There is never the same workout when you come here,” he said. “It keeps you mentally engaged so you don’t get bored.”
In addition to the Boot Camp classes and Camp Rhino, Johnston puts on weekend events throughout the month such as the 3 T’s of Torture or Boot Camp on the Strip.
Johnston isn’t going to stop at Camp Rhino in Las Vegas. She is looking to expand in Denver.
In the end, the workouts aren’t just about overcoming physical obstacles but also training the mind on how to tackle any hurdle faced throughout the day.
“The accomplishments I make here correlate to other aspects in my life,” Drumright said. “If I’m having a really rough day, I realize I am stronger than any other challenge that comes my way.”
For more information, visit camprhino.com or call 702-767-8797.
Contact Henderson/Anthem View reporter Michael Lyle at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5201.